An Overview of the Probate Process in Florida
If there is a Will it is deposited with the court. The original will (with original signatures, not a photocopy) is deposited with the Clerk of Court. If there isn’t a will, Florida statutes will determine how the estate is distributed. If probate has already been done in another state, a certified copy of the Will and probate proceedings are requested from that out-of-state court.
A certified death certificate is filed. A “certified” death certificate is one that is obtained and certified from and by official sources, such as Vital Records, The Department of Health, a County Clerk, etc.
A petition is filed with the court to open probate proceedings.
If there is a Will, signatures are proven to be valid. Many wills have what is known as a “self-proving affidavit” that attests to the signatures on it. If this isn’t present a court will request additional documentation.
Creditors are notified and legal notices are published. A list of all known creditors is important at the outset of probate.
Petitions for exemption rights are submitted. Florida grants exemptions from the claims of the unsecured creditors (e.g., medical debts, credit cards, etc.) against certain assets in the estate, however, if you don’t ask for these rights, they are not given to you.
Expenses and Claims are paid. After all estate expenses and fees are paid or reimbursed to the party that paid them, claims filed by creditors are considered for payment.
Accountings are prepared and Assets Distributed. The Personal Representative must account to the beneficiaries and other interested parties regarding how they have managed the estate assets during the administration.
The Estate is Closed. Pleadings are prepared and signed or served on all interested parties attesting that the administration is complete and asking that the personal representative be discharged and relieved of further responsibility.